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Parents of children with autism face challenges getting services

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Since Avonte Oquendo's tragic disappearance last fall in Queens, several more children with autism have gone missing in the city. So what do parents have to do to keep their kids safe in school and how do they go about it? If parents want an aide, also called a para-professional, it can be a difficult process. Some say it's a battle.

Lynn Decker has two teenage boys with autism. Neither son is able to speak. Lynn has been through the public school meetings to get an aide for her son at one point. And other services for her children. She says each and every time felt like a fight.

Autism advocacy groups say this is a fairly typical experience for parents.

Nancy Reavis says she asked for an aide for her 14-year-old son, Elicio, and was told she would have to wait. Elicio, who can barely speak, wandered off from school Friday. He was finally found Monday. Now he has an aide assigned to him.

Attorney Gary Mayerson is a civil rights lawyer specializing in autism. He says parents are legally entitled to special services for their children with autism. The family does have to meet certain criteria if they request an aide. The child either has to have a history or likelihood of wandering or is likely to hurt themselves, hurt others, or needs assistance assimilating in to a mainstream classroom.

But parents don't always get what they ask for.

Mayerson says many issues come down to money, and this is one of them.

Lisa Goring is with the global advocacy organization Autism Speaks. She says it's important to have the data to support what your child needs.

If parents are denied an aide for their child, they have to hire an attorney or an advocate to fight the battle. If they can't afford an attorney, they're out of luck.

In New York City, the Department of Education says it does not withhold aides or other services to try and save money and that "our priority is to ensure the safety and security of all students."

Mayerson says that parents should never give up. If you're denied an aide for your child, keep asking. he also says The New York City school system is doing a decent job of preventing children with autism from wandering.

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